Brains on Fire: Moments of “Medication Madness” creating lifetimes of sadness

By Maria Mangicaro

In her new book “Brain on Fire:  My Month of Madness“, NY Post reporter Susannah Cahalan chronicles her month-long battle with psychotic symptoms and the events that led up to her accurate diagnosis and treatment for anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a rare autoimmune disease that can attack the brain. Cahalan stated doctors think the condition may account for cases of what was believed to be “demonic possession” throughout history.

As Dr. Peter Breggin reveals in his book “Medication Madness:  The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime“, many of today’s psychotic demons come in pill form and for more and more families, moments of medication madness are creating lifetimes of tragedy and sadness.  The failure to recognize obvious cases of Medication-Induced psychosis and crime indicates a lack of responsiblity on the part of mainstream mental health advocates and mainstream media.

Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own child.  Sometimes there is a combination of murder and suicide in filicide cases and filicide is viewed as a complicated and multifactorial crime.  One of the most influential classifications of child murder was created in 1969 by Phillip Resnick.   The classifications include the “Acutely psychotic filicide” by which the parent, responding to psychosis, kills the child with no other rational motive.  [1]

With the advent of the 911 emergency system, we are now able to call into question factors of medication-induced psychosis that may be easily recognized by experienced dispatchers.   A skilled 911 operator can easily extract necessary information from callers quickly and efficiently, keeping the callers calm and update them on the status of the emergency services they have dispatched.   In cases of acutely psychotic filicide, the 911 call can play an important role.

This past August New Jersey officials reported a tragic filicide-suicide involving a 33-year-old mother who admitted to a 911 operator that she was currently being prescribed the anti-depressant Prozac.

Police found the body of 2-year-old Zahree Thomas after his mother, Chevonne Thomas, placed a rambling, sometimes incoherent call to 911.   Thomas openly admitted to the dispatchers that she had stabbed her son and in a gruesome discovery the toddler’s head was found in the freezer.

During the 911 call the dispatcher apparently recognized Chevonne’s apathetic tone and bizarre behavior may have been a result of taking a prescription medication and the operator asked if she was taking any.  Chevonne acknowledged that she was on the anti-depressant Prozac but didn’t take it that day.

“I didn’t take it today, but I should have. I should have,” she said.

Minutes later Chevonne fatally stabbed herself in the neck.  Police suspect illegal drugs may have been involved as well.

Ryan Ehlis admitted to filicide in 1999 and was charged with the murder of his infant daughter.  The charges were dismissed after various doctors testified Ryan suffered from an “Amphetamine-Induced Psychotic Disorder” (DSM-IV Code 292.11), caused by the ADHD medication Adderall.  The Court determined Ryan did not have the necessary criminal responsibility as it was determined the psychiatric medication caused his psychotic state.

Medication-Induced Psychosis could have also played a role in the filicide cases of Dena Schlosser, Otty Sanchez, Julie Schenecker, Debra Jeter, and David Crespi.

After the 2011 murder of her two teenage children, police recovered over 500 pills from the Schenecker home.

David Crepsi’s wife Kim is a a friend and a fellow member of ISEPP.   After speaking with Kim on numerous occasions and listening to the 911 tapes myself, there is no doubt in my mind that David’s case was one of a Substance Induced Psychosis.

Within seconds of speaking with him, the 911 operator easily recognized that David was heavily medicated stating; “Keep talking to me cause you sound like you’re a little bit tired and stuff, and we’re wondering if you maybe took too much medication,”  repeatedly the 911 operator pointed to medications as the cause of David’s apparent psychotic state.

With newer drugs being more specific in their effects on the brain, clinicians must be alert to the possibility that the worsening of the patient’s mental status and behavior may be caused by the medications they are taking rather than simply attributing it to a worsening of their underlying illness. [cit]    Attorneys, as well, must be educated in etiological factors that can induce a psychotic state and criminal behavior.

Below are clips from the FDA Advisory Commitee hearing  on Prozac that took place September 20th 1991.


Autopsy of a “Mental Illness” Epidemic

Autopsy of a “Mental Illness” Epidemic

By Maria Mangicaro

The 2005 widely publicized debate between Matt Lauer and actor Tom Cruise demonstrated the sheer “schizophrenic” nature of mental health advocacy itself.

The one fact advocates seem to agree upon is the number of people in the U.S. entering our mental health care system is skyrocketing.  Unfortunately, many advocates, experts and mental health journalists are at odds speculating on what is causing this epidemic of “mental illness” and what it will take to remedy the situation.

Many advocates see the insurmountable human suffering as a critical agenda and are especially concerned over the increasing mental health needs for our military veterans in the near future.

The fact that mental health advocates are at each other’s throats is complicated by conflicting research, skeptical published information, the stigma of mental illness, persuasive public lectures, selective  story telling from journalistic perspectives, money-making objectives, personal agendas, personal experiences and flawed interpretations.

Public opinion and the decision-making process regarding forced treatment are greatly influenced by a variety of mental health advocates, a few of which dominate the media more than others.

The internet is playing a critical role in the advocacy agenda for individuals considered to be suffering from severe “mental illness”, many of whom are among a marginalized population and do not have access to the internet.  Advocacy must be met with equal and fair representation for the voice of those who can not speak for themself and do not have access to what is being said on their behalf.

The conflict among mental health advocates is extremely questionable as many advocates are paid large sums of money for their work as an advocate.  The impact of best-selling books must also be considered as journalists do not hold the same credentials and liability as mental health professionals.

The topic of “mental illness” is very broad, there is a critical need for advocates to clearly define what it is they are advocating for and for whom.

“Treatment advocacy” must be defined, otherwise is it should be considered advertisement promoting the use of psychiatric medications.

The value of accurately assessing and treating the underlying medical conditions and substances known to cause psychotic/manic states is a common sense position for advocates to take.   It is unethical to advance anything less than best practice standards for individuals suffering from psychosis/mania.

Mental health advocates and invetigative journalists need to stop butting heads, bullying each other with opinions and put their heads together in order to make medical necessary, cost-effective treatment available to individuals suffering from psychosis/mania.

A good analogy to consider is the story of the Elephant and the Blind Men.


Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree too. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, “Maybe you have your reasons.” This way we don’t get in arguments. In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways. So, you can see how broad our religion is. It teaches us to be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking. This is known as the Syadvada, Anekantvad, or the theory of Manifold Predictions.

The public is looking for answers to the “Mental Illness” Epidemic. 

Advocates need to work together to find best practice solutions.

What is causing the skyrocketing number of individuals to suffer psychotic and manic symptoms?

Is it being caused by Invisible Plagues, Toxic Exposure, Medication Mis-management?

Where can we find the solutions to our Mental Health Care Madness?

As an advocate, it is my belief that all individuals labeled with and treated for psychosis/mania are entitled to informed consent, accurate assessment and treatment options.

No individual should be forced to contract the services of facilities or providers without having the benefit of integrated care and integrative psychiatry.   In cases of psychosis/mania, determining the cause of the symptoms means an overall healthier life for the forcible “treated” patient and a movement towards Participatory Medicine in mental health care.

It is my hope that advocates from all organizations will support a United Advocacy Agenda in favor of Best Practice Assessment of psychosis and acceptance of participatory concepts for those labeled “mentally ill”.

It is my goal to create a clear and convincing position that carefully considers all other dominating perspectives on the treatment of psychotic symptoms.

I welcome comments, suggestions and constructive feedback.

Here is a list of some popular books that make a critical assessment of the “mental illness” epidemic and should be held to strict scrutiny:

The Insanity Offense: How America’s Failure to Treat the  Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens by E. Fuller Torrey

Invisible Plague:  The Rise of Mental Illness from 1750 to the Present by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey

Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases  of Violence, Suicide, and Crime by Dr. Peter Breggin

Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring  Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill by Robert Whitaker

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker

Brain on Fire:  My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness by Pete Earley

Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin talks about his book “Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime”: how psychiatric medications can cause a biochemical imbalance, Substance-Induced Psychosis, Mania, Depression, Violence and Suicide

Uploaded by on Jul 14, 2008

Peter Breggin, MD talks about dangers of psychiatric drugs for children and adults and his new book,Medication Madness, now available at   Learn more about Dr. Peter Breggin’s work including scientific papers, weekly audio reports, and sign up for our newsletter at

Uploaded by on Jul 14, 2008

Uploaded by on Jul 14, 2008

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